California’s farm-to-fork movement got a boost from Gov. Jerry Brown this week when he signed a handful of food and agriculture policy bills into law.
One will have a direct impact on San Diego-area farmers markets.
Designed to reduce fraud in California farmers markets, the new law will increase vendor fees at certified farmers markets from 60 cents to $2, and is expected to bring in $1 million in new revenue to hire more inspectors.
As we reported in May, the most common violation among vendors at local farmers markets is selling a product that isn’t listed on the certified producers certificate. San Diego County’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures is already one of the more proactive in the state when it comes to inspections, but the new law will likely strengthen departments throughout California.
Catt White, who operates the Little Italy Mercato as well as weekly farmers markets in Pacific Beach and North Park, says the fee increase isn’t limited to farmers. Non-farmer vendors selling items like coffee, jam or baked goods will also be required to pay the $2 fee. Here’s the rub, White says: The ag department doesn’t regulate vendors who have no agricultural products.
Technically these non-farmer vendors are selling goods at their own special event – one that just happens to run parallel (and in many cases, directly across the street) from the actual certified farmers market. So far, it’s been a fee that White pays herself, but with 200 vendors at the Little Italy market and 50-60 at her other two markets, it’s a substantial increase.